Cemetery, In Use For Thousands of Years, Excavated in Albania
An ancient cemetery containing layers of about 1,000 burials dating back to the Iron Age has been found in southeastern Albania. The cemetery was actually three cemeteries: one from the Iron Age, one late Roman, and one from the Middle Ages. And under the bottom layer of the cemetery were what appears to be a Neolithic settlement. Archaeologists found holes in the ground, which supported the now-rotted wooden skeletons of small huts.
The birthplace of plant domestication in the Americas. The first New World country to gain independence from the Spanish Empire. The eleventh-largest country in the world, by population. Like the United States, Russia, and China, this is a country that any informed citizen should have at least a basic knowledge about.
Prehistoric humans used obsidian as cutting implements. Amazingly, we still haven't come up with something that can beat obsidian -- obsidian scalpels are many times sharper than surgical scalpels made of steel.
A limestone relief, bearing the cartouche of King Amenhotep I, had been offered for sale in a London auction house. But it has now been given by the UK to Egyptian authorities. What happened? An archaeologist who spotted the relief in London realized it had been stolen from the Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor in 1988. The archaeologist alerted Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, and the ministry’s Repatriation Department used legal and diplomatic channels to stop the sale in London. The limestone relief is back in Egypt, where it had rested for almost 3,500 years.
The International Commission on Stratigraphy recently announced the creation of a new unit in the scale of geological time, the Meghalayan Age, from 4200 years before present, or 2200 BCE, to the present. That means we are currently living in the Meghalayan Age! Our age began with a megadrought. A "megadrought" means at least twenty years of drought, but this one was two centuries of low water, which research has linked to the collapsing of civilizations in Egypt, Syria, Greece, Palestine, Mesopotamia, the Indus River Valley, and the Yangtze River Valley. Geologic time scales are reflected in layers of rock or geologic strata. The best evidence of this sudden, global megadrought can be found in chemical signatures in a stalagmite in a cave in the Indian state of Meghalaya; hence the name.
But this new geologic age, less than a year old, is now the subject of controversy. There are three main arguments (so far) against the new Meghalaya Age. First, that all these civilizations did not collapse at once. Local city-states in Mesopotamia flourished, for instance, even as the Akkadian Empire shrunk. Second, that the archaeological and historical record suggests the civilizations destabilized due to specific, local problems -- not a worldwide megadrought. For instance, Egyptian civilization had slowly decentralizing for about a hundred and fifty years before 2200 BCE, but there was no disruption to Egyptian civilization, no dark age, and no mass starvation and death. Third, that the environmental determinism suggested by naming a new age after the Meghalayan megadrought takes away the importance of human agency, of cultural and sociopolitical factors, to drive change. By saying a drought caused all these civilizations' problems, we deny that humans are capable of causing such large-scale changes.
The debate has just begun. Initial arguments have been made for both sides. There are many more archaeological and historical discoveries to be made, scientific checking to do, and debates to be had. I personally am very excited to see what happens to the Meghalayan megadrought!
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By Lillian Audette
This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!